Rewriting History?

Kids have an uncanny way of catching parents unprepared, don’t they?  While our family was in the car (on the way to church no less) my youngest son asked the open-ended question, “Dad, has anyone in our family ever been in real trouble?” 

I have no idea what inspired his question or what he meant by “real trouble.”  In a matter of milliseconds I was in full internal dialog conflict.  I’ve already had the discussion about my wild and wooly youth with my eldest son, on my own terms, when he first became a teenager.  I want all the boys to learn from my successes as well as failures, but I didn’t plan to introduce certain parts of my history until I deemed each was mature enough to understand.  With the question I found myself put on the spot by my “baby” – the child with the unflappable memory.

First thought – deflect the question.  Surely we didn’t have time to get into the details right before church.

Second thought – lie now and ask for forgiveness later when I set the record straight.  After all, how would I be helping my boy by exposing him now to the truth of his father’s fallibility?

Third thought - tell the truth.  Heavy sigh...

Thankful for the influence of the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit, I resisted the temptation to try to rewrite my history.  In the end, there was more at stake than my pride.  Instead of adding a new failure to a past failure, I shared that yes someone had found trouble, and that someone was me.  After my son’s shocked look that pierced my heart momentarily, I explained that I had made some poor decisions as a young man, letting my immaturity and anger get the best of me - and I paid the price.  As quickly as the question came, the answer satisfied the random curiosity of the inquiry.

Fatherhood Challenge: Dare to tell the truth.  I realize there are definitely times when it would be inappropriate to share all the adult details of life, even if directly asked by our children.  However, risking a wound to my ego and being challenged to follow-up the truthful answer with a teachable moment later on, when the time is right, was the better choice.

Because I Love You…

It was one of those weekends to which any parent can probably relate.   

The need for what I call “everyday discipline” often seems to come in waves, and we were surfin’ USA.  I hate sounding like a broken record, and even worse yet, becoming a nag.  For reasons unknown to me, my two younger boys ran a course over two days that had me correcting them every few hours for one reason or another.  Right up to church time on Sunday morning we were battling over the same 'ol house rules and I was becoming more exasperated with each additional infraction.   

When we arrived at church and discovered the sermon was about passionate parenting, and specifically on the topic of discipline, I couldn’t help but think the timing was providential.

Few parenting topics have been written about as much as discipline.  In fact, a Google search of “disciplining children” yields 3,030,000 results!  My boss and mentor, Dr. James Dobson, wrote one of the definitive and best-selling books on the subject, titled Dare to Discipline.  I encourage every parent read D2D at least once, and re-read it when you can use encouragement or have specific questions.

Many solid principles of disciplining kids were reiterated in the sermon, such as: the value of consistency, the importance of setting meaningful consequences, and the need to distinguish between criticism of behavior and a personal character indictment.  The most important and fundamental point that hit home for me was the reason for discipline, so clearly communicated in Hebrews 12:6:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Like the Lord with all His children, our being willing to discipline and meet the parenting challenge to do it biblically and effectively is love.  Period.  Focused on the issue at hand, I sometimes forget to share this fundamental rationale with my children.  

There was also value in my sons hearing that loving discipline is a mandate, a job assigned to their parents by the Heavenly Father.  As the pastor made the connection I literally watched the light go on in my boy's eyes - yet another reason to help our children get into the Word of God and to have them engaged in a church setting where other Christian leaders can come alongside us as parents.

Finally, if we are truly acting in love as we discipline, it greatly helps with the frequent challenges that surround this key parenting responsibility.

His Sovereignty Is Forever

On the eve of the 2012 presidential election in the United States of America, there is tangible electricity coursing through our nation in anticipation of the appointment of the country’s 45th Commander in Chief.  Pomp and circumstance will soon mark the end of a long, exhausting, and expensive election season. 

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being nervous.  Not the kind of nervousness when anticipating the results of a Super Bowl, where my favorite football team was on the field but even the best team can be beat on any given Sunday.  This is more of a hot coal in the pit of my stomach type of nerves.   

I’ve had to ask myself, “why?”

Certainly the stakes couldn’t be higher for families in our nation.  There are clear, fundamental differences in the candidates’ positions on defending the sanctity of life, biblical marriages, religious liberties and plans for how to work back from an economic slide that has decimated our country’s global position.  For these reasons, we should all be engaged and very, very concerned about the election outcome.  For God’s sake brothers and sisters, exercise your right and vote if you haven’t already!

Then there’s the “me” part of the equation.  While usually politically opinionated, this is the first presidential election when my immediate family and I, together, have been mobilized for the cause.  We’ve read, listened, watched, and studied. We have talked about the issues and choices at hand with those who would listen.  We’ve donned the signs and bumper stickers and attended victory rallies.  Been there, bought the t-shirt and worn it.

Unexpectedly, our support for Mitt Romney and his plan for America became a personal issue very quickly, putting our family at odds with other family members, friends, clients and strangers.  We’ve been given rude salute, shouted at, and my sticker-laden vehicle was even vandalized.

So what does this have to do with the fatherhood challenge? It has everything to do with what happens next.

As the pastor of the church we attend reminded us yesterday in a teaching series on parenting, my three sons are watching their mom and I - especially now.  Through our behavior, in our countenance, and in what and how we pray our kids will learn lessons about victory or defeat, elation or disappointment, community or division, about real patriotism and love of country.  And I thought all that was left to do was vote!

I pray for new leadership in America and for the restoration of the Christian heritage that made this country truly great.  That is MY prayer.  But far more importantly, I trust God.  So now, before the election is decided, I focus on the greater lesson before us and the reason that my nerves are simply a waste of energy.  I borrow from columnist Joel Hilliker and his article, “Why We Should Pray For The President.”

"1 Peter 2:13 tells us to 'Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.'  For whose sake?  The Lord’s.

Why?  So we learn to submit to government.  It will be much easier to submit to a loving God if we learn to submit to a hard boss.  We all must learn the lesson of submitting to government even if it is not being applied correctly.

Look at Christ’s example.  He put Himself totally in His Father’s hands, knowing God was in control of everything.  When He came before Pilate, He didn’t revile—He submitted Himself to that authority.  He knew that Pilate had no power but what God gave him, and that everything occurs in accordance with God’s ultimate purpose (verses 22-23; John 19:10-11).

If we can learn this lesson of submitting to whomever God puts over us in this world, it will tremendously help us in our relationship with our heavenly Father.  It will, in fact, prepare us for the Kingdom of God.”

The right to publicly and passionately agree or disagree on the road to representing and defending our values is an incredible privilege that most of the people on earth do not share.  In a mostly civil way, Americans have engaged in the freedoms that defines our republic and sets us apart as “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

May we each pledge allegiance, under God, to the United States of America and support in faith the leadership He allows.  May we commit to patriotism and teach our children love and respect for our country, regardless of the election outcome.  May we live in the peace of knowing that the Lord’s will is perfect and that His sovereignty is forever.